On our last day in Hamburg we walked down to the waterfront, stopping first to go into St. Michael's church, a magnificent building. The plans were lost in Elsa on boat tour the fire of 1842, but the church was restored from the ruins and an enterprising parishioner measured the whole church around the turn of the century. So, when the church was damaged in WW II, there were substitute plans available to help them rebuild it. It is a late baroque church, and originally had been all white inside, but it was repainted in the 1950s with some green accents, as the new church leaders wanted more color. We could see the tower from just about everywhere in the city, even from the harbor.
Along the Elbe River landings there are dozens of big tour boats, ferry boats, small tour boats, museum boats, paddlewheel boats, lunch boats, cargo ships, dinner boats, work boats and just plain boats lined up. And there are dozens of men wearing nautical caps trying to sign up passengers for the harbor tours. Each boat makes about eight harbor tours a day.
So much nautical activity means the harbor tours attract plenty of takers all year long. It's a little hard to explain: the locals take visitors and guests on the harbor tour, the guide books all push the harbor tour as the thing to do in Hamburg. It is interesting, but not the first thing you'd want to do in this fascinating city. Waterfront scene
We began with the nineteenth-century brick warehouses, enclosed in a huge duty-free zone to facilitate transshipment. There are reputed to be over three billion dollars worth of oriental carpets in one of the warehouses, not to mention tea, spices, and other valuable commodities. There have been unusually high spring tides in recent years, so the lowest windows of the warehouses have been bricked over. Nobody knows why the spring tides are getting so high.
Four Dutch dredgers are kept constantly busy keeping Hamburg harbor free of mud; locks prevent mud and silt from moving from one part of the river to another.
Hamburg claims to be the second largest port in Europe, after Rotterdam; it is Germany's primary North Sea port, because the rail and autobahn routes come to Hamburg from all over the country. The port handles bulk and containerized cargo; the last break-bulk shed will be torn down soon. We saw a Big ship in harbor large automotive carrier loading up. It had an asymmetric hull; cars drive on and off the starboard side only. Ships like this can carry up to 6,000 cars.
There is only one shipyard left, with drydock capacity up to 60,000 tons, but it was not fully utilized. Three other shipyards have closed in recent years. There was a nice, sleek-looking small cruise ship under construction for a Greek owner, and several ships having their hulls reworked.
There were plenty of big cargo handling cranes around the port including one rated for 400 tons. There were also plenty of cargo containers, in twenty and forty-foot lengths. A great deal of the trade seemed to be with China.
Our tour was in German and English; we probably would have learned as much from an all German tour, and could have chosen a swankier tour boat. But it was still quite interesting.